Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Linkage

For some time-wasting--er, research on your Friday, here are some cool links I found this week:

ITW has a call for submissions out for their 2010 Thriller of the Year award. Hey ITW people! Why no YA category?

Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, has a plea for agents on her blog, asking everyone to simmer down now a little. I thought it gave some interesting insights into what it’s like to sit on the editor’s side of the desk.

YPulse has an interesting opinion piece, discussing why teens are not big tweeters.

Check out this British ATM with Cockney rhymes: A nice flashback to my days in England. Oy.

Thought this was funny: coaching for those facing jail time, or What to Expect When You’re Going to Jail. Just in case you’re rich and got busted, you can get all prepped for the slammer at $100 an hour… Or you could just rent HBO’s Oz series.

A was asleep at the wheel or something, because I only just realized Vanished by Kat Richardson is already out. I don’t normally do vampires, but Ms. Richardson manages to blend the fangs with a butt-kicking mystery. So I picked up my copy, and I recommend you all do the same.

If you’re young and live in the Colorado Springs area, check out the Young Lyrical Lounge open mic night. Sounds like a lot of fun.

Finally, I hope you’ll all send some good thoughts my way today, as I’m throwing a Hannah Montana birthday party for ten second-graders. And no, you’re not invited, unless you’re Hannah Montana.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Got Ink?

The Instore Marketing Institute gives more information on Borders expanded kids section called Borders Ink. I had snarky comments about their toys and merchandising ready, but then read that there will be a section for the 8-12 year-old reader.

The article (and Borders?) calls this the independent reader; I’m assuming this is middle-grade. I really, really like how this age group is no longer tossed in with younger kids’ books, or with YA for high school age teens, as was previously done (at least at my bookstore and library). There’s just a big difference between YA and middle-grade readers, and mixing the books up only leads to confusion.

Ever pick up a book, thinking it was YA, only to find it’s a middle-grade written for a 10 year-old? I have. Not cool, however brilliant said book is.

And tweens need their own bookshelf. Life is hard enough already when you're ten.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Big Splash

After my little snafu while reading Torn to Pieces (where I figured out the plot by page two), I continued with Jack D. Ferraiolo’s The Big Splash, also nominated for an Edgar this year. Not the winner, but I’ve found some real page turners among the nominees.

As was this one. From the cover, which had a slight Japanamation feel to it, I assumed that maybe this was a graphic novel. But no. I think it was a not-so-obvious throw-back to the old pulp covers—right up my alley. I love the pulps. Wrote a few shorts reminiscent of the genre myself, like this short for The Thrilling Detective, a most fine ezine with lots of pulpy PI stories.

But enough spam-o-rama of yours truly. The Big Splash is, in short, a middle-grade PI pulp. So I was really digging this book as I began reading, with a grin of recognition on my face as main character Matt Stevens takes on the case of this book:

Who water-gunned Nikki Fingers, the school’s meanest hit-girl?

The scenes follow some of the stereotypical pulp characters, like big boss Vinny, right-hand man Kevin, and of course our loner PI Matt. Add some key scenes, like the ‘killing’ of Nikki Fingers, the simultaneous hiring of our PI by both big boss Vinny and Nikki’s pretty sister, and the hall monitors’ (cops) ambiguous involvement. Like I said, pulpy.

Beyond the pulp PI format, the story continued with the mystery, some good plot twists, and solid writing. The Big Splash was a decent and unusual read.

Here are my issues with the book though (you knew I was going to have something to bring up, right?):

1. However cool I thought this format was, will a middle-grader get it? I mean, we’re talking old-school pulp here—I know it’s making a bit of a comeback, but I doubt it’s enough for a 10 year-old to appreciate.

2. The case our PI Matt is investigating is the shooting in the crotch with a squirt gun. With water. Now, I know peer pressure is a real pain, but this was the best crime you could come up with? I mean, it’s a squirt gun with water.

In my opinion, this book is one of those that’s more pleasing for adults than for kids. Sure, the pulp PI nod is clever, but do you really think a middle-grader will dig that? And the squirting the water in the crotch thing… Not only are you missing the point of pulp, which has a distinct, gritty noir thing going on, you’re trivializing what it means to be a teen. It’s not all about who’s in and who’s out.

Basically, I would have loved for this book to have a real crime, like the kind that middlegraders see in real life. Because they do, you know. Waterguns are insulting—plus imagine how great this book could have been with the depth of some reality. It’s a bummer the author decided not to go there, because this book was a pretty good read. But it could have been a really great one.

In short: The Big Splash was a little too clever for its own good. But an interesting read all the same.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shorts, Squirrels and M&Ms

I’ve been busy editing this textbook on finance for the past week. Hence the quietness on the blog, in case you were wondering.

So I didn’t get to comment on how ridiculous this whole dumb discussion is over Michelle Obama’s shorts (really? This is what we reduce the woman to—her shorts?). People, people. We should all wish we look that good in a pair of shorts, after sitting on a plane for hours. Nuff said.

I did want to share this pretty cool picture of tourists and a squirrel, though. Gotta love it.

But now I’ll return to some good YA reading, and keeping tabs on any other happenings in YA. I’m back. Everyone, hide your M&Ms…

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Dang Dunit

Take this situation: you’re settling in your most comfortable reading spot (for me, this is my bed with fluffy cat at my side), you open a new mystery book. The pages are crisp, making you feel like you are the first to discover this story. Happy joy.

Okay, so you begin reading. The writing is nice. The main character intriguing. Then there’s the mystery—it’s introduced quickly, which you like. You’re digging this book, even though you’re only on page one.

You flip the page to number two. The mystery unfolds, aaaaand… you figure out the dunit. You pause. You pet the cat. Dammit, you think. I know the dunit.

You hesitate. Maybe you got it wrong. Maybe the dunit you think dunit, didn’t do it at all. Maybe this writer is so clever, she tricked you into thinking you’ve figured out the dunit, but really someone else dunit. An Ellery Queen twist. It’s possible. Your cat looks up at you, wondering why you stopped reading.

Okay. So do you continue reading?

You hesitate once more. Get up and find a beverage (hot chocolate seems appropriate for this particular drama). Get back in your favorite reading spot, where your cat now looks cranky, since you messed up his nap.

You pick up the book. Read page two once more. No, no doubt. You know whodunit, and even why. You’re pretty sure now, because this particular plot is not exactly original.

You finish your beverage. Then you commit the ultimate reader crime: you flip to the back. You feel a little guilty, but only a little. After all, there’s no point reading 250 pages if you already know where it’s going. Your to-read pile resembles the tower of Pisa after all, so time’s a-wastin’.

On page 230-something, right where you guessed the solution to this not-so-original plot would be, there it is. The dunit, who you guessed dunit, and even the why.

And that was how I sort of read Edgar nominee Torn to Pieces by Margot McDonnell. Sorry, Ms. McDonnell. Your writing is beautiful, for what it’s worth.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Linkage, And Who Stole My Soapbox?

Some linkage for your Friday, should you be in need for time wasting. And who isn’t on a Friday, right?

YALSA has registration open for teen read week (in Oct., but it never hurts to make plans), and for proposals for the 2010 Young Adult Literature Symposium. So check it out.

The YA Authors Café has a contest to win a signed copy of The Comeback by Marlene Perez—caveat: you have to share a how-I-was-dumped story. I guess you could see it as cheap therapy…

Ypulse’s U Don’t Need to Dumb Down News 4 Teens discusses a study by Northwestern University Media Management on how to reach younger audiences with news. Interesting, plus it almost made me pull out my soapbox to talk teens and intelligence, but somebody stole it. A discussion for next week, I guess.

Mystery author Pam Ripling talks about reaching the easy reader audience at Chris Verstraete’s blog.

If you’re local to Colorado Springs, check out Pikes Peak Writers Write Brain workshop next week, August 18th. Author Mario Acevedo will talk about the fantasy genre, and he’s very smart. So get off your butt and go.

And I’m going to Pikes Peak Writers American Icon tonight to cheer on the incredibly talented Mary Koehler, John Ridge, and Mandy Houk. They’re reading for two minutes in front of three judges and a room full of chocolate-eating writers. Hat’s off, guys.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Getting the Girl

I just finished reading Getting the Girl by Susan Juby, which was an Edgar nominee this year. And I could see why this book got noticed: great YA voice, and a fun, interesting storyline.

The book follows Sherman Mack, dork boy with a thing for Dini, who is older than he is and obviously out of his league. Sherman figures out that Dini is about to be blackballed, or defiled, by Harewood Tech’s population. Joining this D-list is pretty much hell on earth (think unpopular at your high school, and multiply by a thousand), and Sherman doesn’t want this to happen to Dini. So he goes on a detective-type mission to find the defiler, and save Dini.

Like I said, this was a pretty good book. Although I had to stretch my imagination a bit to feel the threat of being D-listed like it was deadly, I enjoyed Sherman, the narration, and the fun (though sometimes stereotypical) depiction of high school life.

My biggest objection to this book was that the detective/mystery angle seemed like an afterthought (see my Monday post). I understand that I’m reading YA, but those books qualifying as Edgar nominees just don’t feel like mysteries to me. They’re YA first, and mystery faaaar second.

Don’t get me wrong. Getting the Girl is a good book, definitely worth reading. And my objections are not with this novel at all, really. I’m just a little saddened to find that so far, the Edgar nominees don’t feel like mysteries for teens. They feel more like YA’s with a dash of mystery tossed in.

Which is a shame. Because mysteries are cool, goddammit.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Happy Hump-Day!

To cheer up your Wednesday, check out my friend Ali's post. She runs a writing prompt every hump-day, with "Dude, Where's The Mystery?" as inspiration this week. Not only is she very talented, she's also very funny. So check it out, and grin along with me.

I mean, it's Wednesday, for god's sake. Who doesn't want to grin a little?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dutchness

It’s a strange thing, being an expat. Now, I’ve gotten used to big gallon jugs of milk, how so many things are processed, and that there are fewer flavors in the potato chip aisle (although Americans are coming around—I found Chili Limon flavored ones the other day). I’ll never quite get used to the sweet flavor of bread, but suspect it’s what helps it last forever.

Oddly, by living in a foreign country, you become more aware of the oddities of your own folk. I figured out that, as part of my Dutchness, I know a lot of Yiddish (it’s just part of Dutch vocabulary, interestingly), will not go to the doctor unless blood is gushing from my head (we’re stoic that way), and love, love, love anything that’s free. Which I’m pretty sure is in Dutch genes. You should see my kids bolt for the free samples in the grocery store.

My point? I’m loving this free download of Westerfeld’s Uglies. It was never my favorite (I like his standalones and Midnighters series better), but hey. It’s free. Who can pass that up?

Certainly not a Dutch girl.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dude, Where's the Mystery?

So I’m reading my way through the Edgar nominees, as you have probably noticed from my blog posts. It’s good stuff (the Edgar noms, not my blog). But I can’t help but notice that genre definitions work a little differently.

The book I’m reading now, for instance, hardly qualifies as a mystery at all. Sure, there’s a plot question, which I suppose qualifies. But it’s not fitting the genre, in my opinion. And most of these YA ‘mysteries’ really don’t qualify—and we’re talking Edgar nominees here. Which makes me wonder: where are the true mysteries in YA? I’ve read a few over the years, but can count those on one hand, to be honest.

So here’s another question: how are we going to have adult mystery readers in the future, if we’re not putting out YA mysteries?

And when I say ‘we’, I really mean ‘you big publishing house people out there.’

When I look at what’s on TV and in the theater, I’m delighted to see lots of crime stuff, noir stuff (Watchmen, anyone?), and mysteries. So why are mysteries so absent in YA??

Friday, August 7, 2009

Happy Friday

Of course, I’m sure you’ve heard that Liar, Liar got a new cover. And the whole fuss got some good marketing for the book, so happy happy, joy joy for everyone.

Otherwise, not much to report. I’m reading Getting the Girl by Susan Juby; more on that book next week. I mowed the lawn, edited a manuscript, and am listening to groovy James Morrison CD. Feeling smug on this Friday.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Paper Towns

So I read this year’s Edgar winner, Paper Towns, by John Green. In short, the book is about Quentin, who has a thing for the girl next door, Margo. One night, Margo takes him on a tour of revenge, where she gets back at all the people who’ve wronged her. And they break into SeaWorld too, which turns out to be fun. Then the next day, Margo disappears. Her parents are so tired of her antics, they just kind of give up (Margo is 18). But Quentin decides to find her, following clues Margo left behind.

I wish I could say how I felt about this book, but I’m honestly not sure. It’s well-written (for the most part; more on this later), the story is interesting, but… Okay, so here’s what bothered me:

1. Margo is such a fun, chaotic, on-the-edge character that Quentin is kind of a bummer. Once she leaves (after the revengeful night), I was sorry she wasn’t there anymore. Quentin’s friends Ben and Radar are cool, but just not as exciting to follow as Margo.

2. It’s a little too convenient how Margo’s parents just throw up their hands.

3. My biggest objection: there is a longwinded scene at the end of the book where the characters (I won’t give the ending away) explain everything to the reader—meaning, the author doesn’t trust all the beautiful literary work he just did, and feels his reader is to dumb to get it. Big no-no. My critique folk would eat this for breakfast.

So here’s where I’m confused. All my objections are really proof that this book was very well-written: Margo is compelling, all plot angeles are resolved, and there’s literary depth.

If you get a chance to read this book (and you should—I sailed through it), let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dinero, baby

Those of you who know me a little better, know that I also freelance. This year, I wrote a book on finance (a study guide for stockbrokers to pass the Series 7 licensing exam, to be precise). It was incredibly complex, and a little boring at times. But I did figure out I’m pretty good at the money stuff.

Or so I thought, anyway. Then I read Kristen Nelson’s blog this morning—she always has all kinds of smart things to share on publishing, and often YA too, so I suggest you bookmark her blog. Her current post is all about treating your writing as a business, which made me pause. When was the last time I did a balance sheet for my business?

Silence.

I’m off to grab my calculator…

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Amanda Project

Now this is so brilliant, I wish I would have thought of it myself: The Amanda Project allows teens to hunt for clues and solve the mystery.

The book comes out September 22; you can bet I’ll be picking up a copy. Nothin’ like a good mystery, right?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Yo, You with the Yo-Yo!

It’s fun for me to watch what’s hip now. Because it all looks remarkably like what was hip when I was hip (that’s a lot of hip, huh?): black clothes, punk-style hair. Ripped pants, Madonna sunglasses—it’s all been done. I bleached my own jeans once upon a time.

Some things are different. Cell phones everywhere, videogames, Twitter—me, I had none of those things. We hung out at the playground. And we yoyo-ed. Yes, really.

But then this morning, I found this article on how yoyos are making a comeback. Yoyo sales are up 23 percent, apparently, and there’s a yoyo store in Santa Barbara—some company makes yoyos that are nearly 500 bucks.

And did you know that a professional yoyo-ist makes 50k a year? Now where did I put that yoyo??

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Where Gorgeous Meets Awesome

Just had to share the art I found on Scott Westerfeld's blog, for his not-soon-enough-to-be-released book Leviathan.

It's just awesome.